Souvenirs

I like the French word “souvenir” as it can mean both a memory, and the thing that creates a memory

What mementoes do you have around your house of times or people goneby?

I’m very bad at getting rid of “stuff” because so many things remind me of people or places. I read in one of those “declutter your life” articles that one could take photos of the things, and then throw them away. That way, one has the memory, whenever you look at the photo, without having the clutter – but somehow that seems heartless.

Here are just some of the things that I can see as I sit at my computer and look around:

  • a tiny painted cockerel, bought as a souvenir of our holiday in Portugal
  • Two other painted cockerels, sent to me by my Godson, from his working holiday in Columbia
  • A heart shaped stone, bought (with one exactly the same) on Puy de Dome. One for me, one for Mr FD on the ocassion of our 30th Wedding Anniversary
  • A painted stone, painted on Iona when I went with a group from church, and my Godson,in 1999
  • A beautiful painting brought back from the Holy Land by my mum
  • A desk mat, with the French verbs “etre” and “avoir”, and the English “to have” and “to be” conjugated and illustrated, given to me when friends from the UK came to visit
  • A “selfie” of my colleagues at Lines in 2015 – framed as a gift from David, our Head of Department
  • A Victorian opal-and-semi precious stone ring that I wear every day, which belonged to “Auntie”Cynthia, a good friend of my parents.
  • myriad postcards and cards stuck on the wall and doors, each with messages of love and support from various people all over the world.

I would hate to throw these things away. When I look at them I smile and, however fleetingly, remember those who gave them to me, or the places where I bought them.

And the blanket in the picture?

That was crocheted for me by my Nana, using scraps of wool from all the jumpers she would knit for me, my brother and sister, and other relatives. She made this for my bed round about 1972. It went with me to college, to my first digs in Maidstone, to the house share in London, and it has been in every one of my houses in my married life. Every time I sit with it on my lap, or over the bed, I think of my Nana. I can even identify one or two of the wools used, and say which garments they were from. (For example, the red/yellow/green/blue self-striping wool on the right hand side was from the yoke of a mostly white jumper that I wore when I was about 9 or 10) It is remarkably precious, even though it is starting to fall apart, and is one thing I would NOT be throwing away!

Do you have any souvenirs that you would never part with?

Advertisements

A right Royal event.

I was very busy last Wednesday writing scheduled posts, as I thought I’d be wiped out until at least Tuesday of next week. However, this dose of chemo has affected me differently – I guess the leg pains will start in earnest tomorrow, which I think was the pattern last time, but at least I have a better idea about how to manage them this time round. On Friday, I stayed in bed until after lunch, and then got up; I watched TV most of the afternoon, but I did go for a tiny stroll. Then yesterday, (I’m writing this on Sunday, but scheduling it to publish tomorrow, Monday) I felt great – I’d slept well on Friday night, so I felt up to accepting the invitation of Friend Richard to go to watch the Royal Wedding at his place, together with Friend Cathy. Mr FD turned down the invitation, preferring to stay at home to watch the Giro d’Italia, the rugby, and the FA Cup Final.

I’m not a Monarchist, but nor am I a Republican. I think the role of the Monarchy needs to change – and I think, very slowly, it is – but I think that generally the Royal family probably bring in revenue to the country. I don’t really know much about it though. Whether the reported £ 30 million  spent on security for this wedding should have come from the tax payers’ pockets I don’t know – but presumably, for other public events (concerts, FA Cup Finals etc) the public purse pays, so why not for this.

ANYWAY – I probably wouldn’t have bothered to watch it had I been at home by myself, but with a couple of friends, it seemed like a fun idea. So, in the morning, I made an elderflower cordial and lemon cake, just like Meghan and Harry’s wedding cake.

 

I bet you can’t guess which one I made!

Apparently it was delicious – I couldn’t taste it – and so I will be making it again when my taste returns. If you should be interested, I used this very easy recipe.

Friend Cathy picked me up, and we drove over to Richard’s where he had the Union flag flying outside! We had both chosen to wear patriotic clothes – I had my red trousers, white shirt and blue tunic top, and Cathy had a white skirt, red T-shirt and blue cardigan! While I was tying my blue turban/scarf round my head, I suddenly remembered I had a Union flag scarf, which I had bought for Summer School last year. I’d thought about either wearing it, or pinning it up in the classroom. Finally, I did neither, as we decided it seemed a bit “National Frontish” , but it seemed like the perfect thing to wear today!

Richard has an enormous TV, so it was a bit like being in the cinema! While he plied us with delicious nibbles – vegetarian Nems (spring rolls) and little vegetarian “sliders” (I believe they’re called) – we watched the guests arriving, and critiqued the outfits.

   

As the service started we had a cheese-and-tomato toasted sandwich. I enjoyed the service very much – Richard, a confirmed atheist, disappeared into the kitchen until Michael Curry had finished his address.

I think Bishop Michael is an inspiring speaker, and I could listen to him preaching quite happily – however I felt this address was maybe just a few minutes too long. It was, however, a great message, and I think it fitted the mood of the service very well. It was a bit tricky guaging the reaction of Her Maj, however – she did rather look as though she was sucking on a lemon some of the time!

As the married couple drove around Windsor, waving at the plebs, we enjoyed the cake, with strawberries (I can still just taste strawberries!) and then, as I was starting to flag a little, Cathy drove me home.

Here we are in our patriotically coloured outfits.

Mr FD was firmly ensconsed in front of his sporting events, so I sat and snoozed, and stroked cats. With pizza for dinner, and some recorded comedy programmes that rounded off a good day.  I was in bed by 10.30 and went to sleep about 11.30. Unfortunately there was quite a bit of cat action, with Bib giving me quite a nasty nip, so I was awake from about 4.00 am through to 6.30, listening to Kermode & Mayo’s film review – very soothing voices, which sent me to sleep.

And now, I’m up again, and trying to keep moving (although with the fatigue it does take it out of me ) because all advice seems to be that the more one moves around, the better it is for the neuropathy, as the movement gets the blood pumping to the very ends of the nervous system.

On this day…

Actually, it’s more “in this month”, as since I organised my photos I’ve lost the dates of some of them

 

2014: This was given to me by the daughter of one of my students. He was a potter, and one day it was school holidays, and his daughter was staying with him. He couldn’t leave her alone, so brought her along to his English lesson. We played some games and Papa showed off his English! To say “Thank You”, she made this cat, painted with a happy face on one side, and a sad/angry face on the other:

 

 

*****

2015: Here I am on the top of Puy de Dome. In fact, I know the date of this one as it was taken the day after our 30th Wedding Anniversary celebtations, on 26th May. We spent the night at Hotel Radio, in Chalmalieres, just above Clermont Ferrand. Here’s my blog post about it, on my other blog.

*****

2016: I think this was the card I made for Friend Jane’s “Christian birthday” – she and I made our commitment to God round about the same time, and we send each other cards every year (although sometimes I’m later than I should be!)

*****

2017: another card, this time made for a student of mine who was getting married. And here’s a bonus picture of me when I was younger, so much younger…

2018: Well, today, I’m languishing in bed (yes, another scheduled post!) so no photo for today! Sorry about that.

This year we are going to postpone Wedding Anniversary celebrations…Friend Alison gave us a voucher for a meal at a local hotel for Christmas, and we had decided to go out for dinner. However, with me losing my sense of taste there really isn’t much point gpoing to a restaurant, so we’ll put that meal off until I can taste again!

 

A soggy weekend in central France

It started off promisingly warm! Mr FD worked really hard on Friday in the courtyard and on the balcony, clearing pots, and sorting out the rubbish. That was A Good Thing, as I’m terrible at throwing stuff out. That old, cracked pot? It was a present from “some child at school” (but I can’t remember which child) That broken strawberry planter? It has a “rustic charm” (really?!) Those plastic pots? I could use them to plant seeds. (But I never plant seeds!!) Mr FD just took them down to the tip.

In the afternoon, I got involved in the planting  – though even that small amount of effort wore me out. I’m not sure if the fatigue is a side effect of the treatment, or due to the fact I’ve done even less exercise than usual (which is quite difficult!) and am therefore very unfit! Most probably, it’s a mixture of the two. Anyway, the balcony is now a much more pleasant place to sit. We’ve put a trellis at one end to stop Jasper eating/ scratching up/ using as a litter tray the tomato and pepper plants, and it all looks quite lovely. I’d take a photo to show you, but it’s piddling down and it wouldn’t look very attractive.

This is a picture of the balcony from a couple of years back, looking a mess!

and here it is looking slightly less-of-a-mess (again, from a different year). Note the pigeon spikes to discourage Cats from digging!!

and the courtyard.

Saturday dawned sunnily too. Which boded well for the barbecue in Clermont. Our church has been hosting Juniors Across Europe, This is an annual event for 10-13 year olds from the Convocation of Episcopal Churches in Europe, giving these young people an opportunity to meet anglophone children their own age from other churches and other countries. It is described as “A youth weekend which includes adventures, activities, thought provoking discussions, food, and so much more.” The aim being to develop relationships between churches and to be encouraged in faith and learn more about Christ… with lots of fun thrown in.

Here’s a map showing all the Episcopal churches/missions in Europe

The barbecue was to be the last hurrah of the event, and I’d persuaded Friend Cathy and Mr FD to come. I’d promised to make a dessert and a salad, so I baked my sponge, and prepped the salad on Saturday morning. The sponge was Delia’s all-in-one sponge cake, which always works for me, although this time it sank in the middle as I opened the oven at a critical moment. No matter, layered with jam, the dip filled with chopped strawberries, and served with squirty cream, no-one seemed to mind. During the day, the sky clouded over, and Mr FD started declaring doom and disaster (well, quite a lot of rain). Finally, he cried off, but Cathy & I went.

The location was the retreat centre where the kids had been staying – there was a huge covered verandah with magnificent views over Clermont Ferrand, which were very dramatic this evening, with iron-grey clouds, and a mist of rain that was swirling around, but not actually falling on us. We were able to cook and eat in relative comfort, under the shelter of the verandah, but it grew colder and colder. Finally, at about 8.30, the rain reached us, the temperature plummeted and we decided to go home. But it had been good to support the event. Although the food tasted of nothing, I did still quite enjoy it, as I chose things with texture to compliment each other.

On Sunday we awoke to rain. Steady, very wet rain. I’d committed myself to exhibiting at the little art show taking place at the Artisanat. I think the plan was to be outside under gazebos, but there was no way I could do that. Most of the artists who were working were painting actual views, so they were outside, but as I was just zentangling I installed myself at the back of the small craft shop and drew.

These photos were taken on Saturday by the secretary of the Artisanat:

Here is one of the paintings

This is the view that someone else painted of the ancient Chateau gateway…

..and here he is, painting it. The girl in the sundress and hat would have been extremely chilly, had she actually existed!

I was there all day, but didn’t do very much – a bit of chatting, giving some advice to a lady who was visiting London in a few weeks, but that’s all. However, I was accosted by a woman who obviously knew me, and whose face I recognised, but I had NO IDEA who she was. She talked, and talked and I understood the gist, finally working out that she was from the Eglise Reformée that I used to attend. At the end she asked to be remembered to a mutual friend – but I can’t do that, as I still have no idea of her name!! I sold one picture and a couple of cards, for the grand total of 13€ – I won’t be going on a world tour with that, but that wasn’t the point really. Rather like going to the barbecue, I was there to show my face, and to support the event. Which I did.

After that I had to go out to feed the Poor Cats – oh, it was wet!! The poor things were shivering and trying to hide in different, vaguely dry places. I put as many plates of food under shelter as I could, but I knew that within minutes some of the bowls would be swimming in water. At least I was able to give them some good solid nourishment, as I’d brought home a bagfull of over cooked beef burgers and some leftover chicken legs from the barbecue. Mixed with three tins of cat food, lots of cat-biscuits, and some slightly-out-of-date creme fraiche I felt they had a good meal. But it was so sad to see these poor, wet kitties, looking so miserable. I hope they all went into the shed afterwards and curled up in the duvets and blankets that are in there. We don’t really know how popular the shed is with the Poor Cats – we know Red and Bonnie used to curl up together in there, snuffling together, before they died, as we’d open up the shed and find therm there. We also know Binkie goes in, as does Cloud,  as when we open up, there’s a streak of panicked pussycat fleeing the scene, but other than those, we’re not sure. Still, cats aren’t stupid: they should be able to find a dry-ish nook or cranny to hide in – and we’ve provided the shed, a kennel and three little cat houses filled with straw. If they choose not to use them, there’s not much we can do.

I got home to Mr FD’s pulled pork, sweet potato chips and asparagus. It was, I’m sure, very nice…

Today is another rainy day. Quite chilly too. I will continue with a zentangle commission and also (maybe) make a “Just Because” card for a friend. I need to go to the pharmacy to stock up on the drugs for this round of chemo, but after Thursday it will be five down, one to go.

On 7th June it will be my last chemo! HUZZAH!!! And (hopefully) about three or four weeks after that, I may start getting some tastebuds coming back…and hair…and eyelashes!!! Believe me, you don’t realise how important eyelashes are until you don’t have them!

That may be so – but I couldn’t taste it!

(Not that I’d be licking a cat to find out…even in revenge for Bib, who comes inthe middle of the night, and licks my bald head. I can promise you, a cat’s tongue on a sensitive scalp is Not At All Comfortable!)

 

Some people have got no taste…

In fact, for me, that baby foods taste of nothing…

It’s an odd sensation,eating food that looks delicious, has a faint (but tempting) aroma, and yet tastes of zilch. Nada. Nuttin’ at all.

For the first couple of days after this happened I went off the idea of eating. I existed on porridge and bread (not so good for the bowels!) but Mr FD and I decided that this was no good. Different sites gave different advice, but many said to try strong flavours, such as curry, chilli and so on. However, although I couldn’t really taste these flavours, they still burned my mouth, which is quite sensitive. I’m lucky enough not to have developed ulcers (yet!) but strong flavours hurt – including mint. I find that toothpaste is too strong a mintiness, so I only have a tiny smear. And extra-strong mints have me whimpering “the pain…the pain…”

Working on the fact that I was enjoying a warm hard-boiled-egg sandwich for lunch, with iceberg lettuce and a few crisps, we thought that a way I might – at least partially – enjoy food was if we worked on a variety of textures and sensations. The sandwich was giving me warm/cold, plus crisp/soft/crunchy. A chocolate chip cookie gave an interesting mix of crunchy plus melty (and a tiny hint of chocolate at the very end).

Mr FD’s chilli was a success on Saturday, with the softness which didn’t hurt, a tiny edge of chilli (just enough!), the different textures of beans, mince, rice and so on. Yesterday he made this salmon-and-asparagus-pastafrom my newest “go to” site for recipes

Oh, it looked lovely! It smelt delicious! It tasted of – nothing! BUT at least it had an interesting mix of textures and mouth-feel: soft salmon, slippery pasta, crunchy asparagus. Happily, it also includes 2 of my 5-a-day (which I’m not keeping to, by any means!)

We’ve planned a vegetable/chicken stir fry tonight – carrot, beansprouts, mushrooms, cabbage, noodles – these will all help make it a bit more interesting to eat. And, if it’s a particularly “umami” sauce, I may get a slight taste of that too.

I thought I’d try a different breakfast, and was really looking forward to this Bircher Meusli, that I made yesterday evening, from the same site:

I thought that there would be a variety of textures in this. When I looked at it, I couldn’t help but imagine the deliciousness of the berries, and honey, and creamy yoghurt…digging my spoon in, I took a big mouthful…and nearly gagged! The creaminess combined with the tastelessness just didn’t work! I’m determined to try it again, when I get my taste back, because I think it is probably very nice, but sans taste? – no, thank you! Back to banana sandwich, or honey-on-bread!

What is very bizarre though is the fact that I can still taste drinks – fainter than before, but I can still taste them. So I enjoy my apple juice/ orange & cranberry juice drinks – but I am right off coffee. Very bitter!! I am watering the juice down though, 75% water, 25% juice, which is better for me, but drinking about 2 litres a day. I know 500 ml of juice isn’t great, but I’m letting myself off that for the duration.

I’m slowly losing weight at the moment, mostly because snacks and alcohol hold little, or no, appeal! There’s no point having a biscuit with your mid-morning drink, if you can’t taste it! There’s no sense of “I like something sweet in the evening” if you can’t distinguish sweet from anything else! There’s no “Oh, I really enjoyed that, so even if I’m full I’ll have a bit more!” There’s no “Let’s have an apèro, and a few snacks and nibbles” when the drinks taste bitter, and the nibbles are crisp enough to hurt my mouth and taste of nothing! I’m down about 2 or 3 kg from my last weigh in, but I’m still way too heavy. So, I’m aware that when things are back to as normal as possible, things need to change…

Knowing that we need to up our vegetable intake, and reduce our red meat intake, I think this site will be useful. These are some of the recipes we’ll be trying:

There are lots, and lots, and LOTS of recipes. I also like the way you can see (on some ) how many portions of fruit/veg they provide. I’m also going to be going back to my copy of “River Cottage Veg Every Day”, which I used a lot when I first got it. Here is a link to my old blog pages, with the tag “River Cottage” should you be ionterested in finding out more. I’m enjoying Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall’s series on BBC1 at the moment “Britain’s Fat Fight”…

I also really, seriously, need to think about exercise. But that’s for another day…

But, over to you, dear ones: do you have any suggestions for meals which would tempt me on the texture front, and Mr FD on the taste front?

 

Seven things that made me happy…

Well, this week hasn’t been the Best Week of my Life, so instead of moaning (I did that in Thursday!) I thought I’d follow Mrs M’s example, and write about things that have been good this week.

Friend Cathy has arrived!! Cathy has a holiday home here & spends about 6 months of the year here, and 6 months back with her family in the UK. We’ve been friends for about 10 years now, and her arrival is as welcome as that of the swallows and house martins. It signals the coming of summer! Somehow, when Cathy is here our social life livens up, and we start to share apèros more frequently. As demonstrated this afternoon, when Mr FD drove me up to Cathy’s, and we spent a lovely couple of hours admiring the view, watching the horses, and putting the world to rights. Just what I needed! (Normally there would have been a glass of wine in the mix, but that would be wasted on me at the moment!)

Spending time with Monique & Michel – These are our friends across the square. They are two of the most generous people I know, and we are very lucky that our friendship has grown over the years we’ve been here. Friend Cathy & I went to see them on Tuesday (1st May) and we had a nice chat. Then they insisted we joined them for apèros on the terrace of the hotel next door. Although I couldn’t taste much, the beer I had was refreshing. Mr FD joined us, and we chatted with Roland, the owner.

May 1stwhich may seem a little odd, but I like the fact that here in France, May 1st isn’t only La Fete du Travail but also an opportunity to wish friends happiness for the year ahead, by offering them lily of the valley. I wrote about it here I hadn’t been able to get any muguet, but I had got myself prepared by doing a couple of little zentangles of muguets, which I gave to M&M, and to Cathy. Monique & Michel reciprocated with a bunch of lilies from their garden. The plants that they gave me a couple of years back haven’t really taken – they’re just about growing, but not blooming.

Sharing tea with friendsone of the extra benefits of Friend Cathy being here is that we see more of Friend Richard. He has a house out in the sticks, which he has renovated beautifully, and he spends a lot of the winter months in Africa (which is where his heart is, I feel) He & Cathy get on very well, and spend a lot of time together,when she’s here. Because we see Cathy more, we see Richard more!! He invited us up for tea, and had made biscuits and other lovely things. We had pancakes and lemon tart, biscuits and roasted almonds…he showed us some of the finds from vide greniers (Richard, and many of his friendsfrom Le Port, are great vide greniers afficianados (Vide Greniers are the French equivalent to car boot sales, or attic sales; the translation is basically “empty attic”) & he always finds fascinating articles – old tools, interesting furniture or pottery. Me, I just find Other People’s Tat; I think it must be a difference in attitude!

Going out for a mealon the Tuesday we had apèros outside the Hotel with Monique & Michel, Cathy, Mr FD & I decided to have lunch there too. Unfortunately, because it was a bank holiday, the Menu du Jour wasn’t on offer, so we all just chose a main course from the menu. I had sea bass in a chorizo sauce, with risotto. TBH, I couldn’t taste too much of it, but it had a nice “mouth feel” which helped. Good to share time together, and to support our neighbours.

Drugs!! As I’ve already written about, this round of chemo has had some unpleasant side effects. However, the drugs have helped alleviate these, and made it easier to sleep. Although I should admit they didn’t work last night – I think I took them too late – so I had a sleepless night, with intermittent toffee hammer blows, but instead of moaning and groaning, I tried to go with the flow, and listened to some music.                                                                                                                                    or at least bearable

This piece of musicwhich was one that helped me last night. I use the app Pray As You Go (intermittently) and this was the “lead in” music for the meditation last night. It really affected me, because I thought it was so beautiful. This clip finishes rather abruptly, but gives a flavour of the piece.http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0Q86DbiHhnk

There! I managed to find 7 things easily – and could have written about many more –

  • Millie the cat, who has been a lovely loving cat as I’ve languished in bed,

Mind you, in this picture she seems to have a bit of a strop on!

  • Mr FD cooking things to tempt me (his chilli has been a real success! ) and running to the shops to buy things I “fancy”,
  • our friends Louis & Odette who helped cheer me up yesterday (Louis being very proud that the new Prince is named after him!!),
  • hearing about my mum who rode a pony for the first time at the age of 88. It’s funny how I treat her as a fragile old lady and my sister takes her riding!!!

….and there are still more. But there you go. A slightly more positive post than Thursday’s!

The worst is over…

These are the words that one of the nurses said to me (if I understood her correctly) as she hooked me up to the new doses of poison on Thursday.

“Huzzah”, I thought, as the first FEC100 treatments had been perfectly bearable.

“Liar! Liar! Pants on fire!” I thought as on Saturday my legs started to feel like someone was simultaneously pressing hard on bruises, pushing red hot skewers into my knees and ankles, joyously pricking me with pins & needles, and occasionally tapping my bones with a toffee hammer. This spread to my wrists, hands and forearms too, while my shoulders, ribs and neck were feeling as stiff and painful as a very stiff and painful thing. (Sorry, I’ve run out of metaphors)

I was writhing in pain on my sick bed, whimpering like a puppy. Searching on the internet suggested taking Claritin, and moving. Which I didn’t feel like doing, but I did – and it helped. I also had Tramadol to take for the muscle pain in my shoulders – which is most likely caused by the injection to boost the white blood cells.

On Sunday, during the day, things went fine, but overnight I was woken every couple of hours by the pain; the same on Monday, and then on Tuesday night it became every 15 minutes or so. I was SO tired. It seemed that lying down, and not moving very much made the pains worse. I was really dopey, through tiredness, and burst into tears a few times, just from the sheer relentlessness of it. The pain had decreased by now, but was still there with a shooting pain, or a quick toffee-hammer thud, or a dull ache, just to remind me.

Yesterday Mr FD made an appointment with the doctor, but she basically said there wasn’t much to be done, except increase the pain killers. So I did…and last night I had a reasonable night’s sleep. I still woke up with pain, but about 3.00 am I took more medication, which enabled me to sleep through until 8.00. Millie gave me a lovely snuggle in the hour it took for the painkillers to kick in.

Today, the pain is still there, but it’s in the background. Thank goodness.

The other side effect is that I’ve almost completely lost my sense of taste. There’s still the periphery of sweet or spicy, but it’s hardly there. So you can imagine food doesn’t hold much allure – and my mouth hurts when I eat. AND it feels like it’s full of cotton wool – a bizarre dry feeling.

Yesterday I managed a cheese and pickle sandwich and half a bowl of porridge. The day before, was another sandwich and a piece of fish-and-rice (with a strong sauce) Mr FD is a tad worried, and so is going to “force” me to eat more – I had bread-and-honey for breakfast, and I could taste the honeyness of that. We’ll see about lunch. I haven’t lost a sense of smell though – his omelette last night smelled good, and I can definitely smell when Pomme has been in her litter tray!!

Finally, my nails are being affected too – I have a very greasy ointment to put on twice a day, and I wore ice-mittens while having the chemo, but they are starting to feel weakened, and a little hurty too. Sigh.

I’m not telling you this for sympathy (though that’s always nice) but partly as a record for myself, and partly for others who might come across this while searching for info. It does pass (though I’ve read of people still getting this neuropathy a year after chemo has ended. Please, God, no…) and painkillers are a wonderful thing.

Hey, ho. I hope to continue with a more cheerful post tomorrow.